Holiday Shopping for True Happiness

Last minute holiday shopping -- I shop later and later every year. I even blog about it later each year. This year I have to do three  blogs in the week to get my shopping guides for the perfect Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Christmas present done. Here is the link for if you are mentally interesting and shopping for the normal in your life, here is if you are shopping for your diagnosed friend.  The second is even diagnosis specific. The most popular pick turns out to be a bluetooth phone for the one who talks back to his/her voices, but is trying to pass. Who knew.

But less than a week, people. Internet.  God bless the internet.

Another year I wrote a post on happiness. This post's holiday shopping picks (a updated rerun from 2011) gets to the heart of it -- where to get what makes for true happiness on the internet.  No, really!

The Sources Of Happiness

Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness identifies three major sources of happiness, pleasure, engagement and meaningfulness. So here are suggestions to enhance all three for your favorite loonie or normal.

Let's address one issue first. Life circumstances, beyond having the essentials, are not really that important an influence on the measure of ones happiness. But poverty does matter. If the one you love lives in poverty, go to a grocery store where you can find gift cards for clothing stores, restaurants, general retail, entertainment and more. Give us bread, but give us roses are lyrics of a working women's song from the early 20th century. It's nice, when you are poor, to have the opportunity to choose which is the higher priority this week.


Well, yes. Feeling good makes you feel good. 

On the other hand, have you seen that bumper sticker, The one who dies with the most toys wins? That bumper sticker is an example of irony. I hope it is an example of irony. I am sure the person who came up with it meant it ironically. It is possible that the person on whose Lexus SUV you saw the bumper sticker might have missed the point. That would be sad.

Irony means that the bumper sticker is not true. The one who dies with the most toys does not win. I just wanted to make that clear.

Of the three top sources of happiness, pleasure, engagement and meaningfulness, pleasure ranks lowest on the list, happiness producing-wise. Our mindless pursuit of it notwithstanding.

Nevertheless, perhaps the heart's desire of the person for whom you are shopping is toys. There are all kinds of toys out there  Almost all of them, you can find at They used to be a book store. Not any more. From Automotive to Watches, with books, electronics, movies, weighted blankets, and even musical instruments between. If you know what that heart's desire is, you can probably find it there. Even better, find it at Amazon, but then Google the company that made it, and for a few cents more, you can make a company struggling against the behemoth that abuses its workers happy, too. But if you don't know what that heart's desire is -- are you noticing a theme developing here? -- gift card.


Engagement means being absorbed in the here and now, whether in family, romance, work or hobbies. That being absorbed is the key, because the wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Gifts that bring the family together, or send your recipient out on a date or relate to his/her interests can enhance that person's happiness. Games, restaurant coupons, event tickets, all eminently Googleable and purchaseable by gift card.


Okay, all the above is filler. Here is what I really want to sell this season. Making a difference. What makes for meaning is using one's personal strengths to serve some larger end (Seligman's definition.)

One kind of strength is passion. So let's start with a question. What is the passion of your gift recipient?

I knew an old lady once who absolutely would not deal with that word passion. It's a wonder she ever reproduced. Like Queen Victoria, she probably closed her eyes and thought about England. Or, being American (and Episcopalian), she probably thought about The Book Of Common Prayer.

So here is an alternative for Thelma, God rest her soul, and for you if you can't relate to the word passion. Determination. What is the determination of your gift recipient. What is he/she determined to support/challenge/change/make possible in the world?

Now let's go shopping for meaning.

Shopping To Serve A Larger End

Heifer International

How about a gift that keeps on giving?  Heifer International provides livestock and training to improve nutrition and generate income, lifting families out of poverty.  Recipients share the offspring with others in the community, multiplying the impact of each gift.

Do you have a friend who wants a pet but is allergic?  Three rabbits, $60.  Aaahh, aren't they sweet?!  We bought bunnies for China one year.  Hunger has been wiped out in China.  Coincidence? Heifer International has moved on to another country.

Do you know a cowboy wannabe?  One heifer, $500.

How about a whole ark with two water buffalos, two cows, two sheep and two goats, along with bees, chicks, rabbits, and more, all for $5000. For your friend who is delusional? (Noah/end of the world/delusional -- get it?)

We are just getting started. Knitters, a knitting basket (llama, alpaca, sheep, angora rabbit) -- $480. Homesick Iowan, pig -- $120. If you are shopping for me, I have long had my eye on that water buffalo, a mere $250.

All of these are available in shares, by the way, if that fits your budget better.

Finally, if it's Mother Earth on your list this year, trees for $60 and bees for $30.

Habitat For Humanity

Now let's come closer to home with Habitat for Humanity, building affordable housing by using volunteers, including those who will own - and pay for - the houses. It doesn't have a gift catalog anymore, not one that I could find, with everything from light switches to flooring. One year my sister-in-law gave me a kitchen sink. But you get the idea.

If I haven't hit a bulls eye yet, is the meaningfulness equivalent of This one may appeal to the rockers in the crowd. Cofounded by Bono, Bob Geldof, et al, created a partnership of all sorts of groups working to eliminate world poverty by 2015 -- the Millenium Development Goals. The link leads you to a progress report and the new Sustainable Goals adopted by the UN as a follow-up.


And since this is my blog, after all, I will put a word in for Episcopal Relief and Development, ER-D. When earthquake or hurricane strikes, ER-D listens to local people to determine how best to help. Then they stay with it after the cameras move on. And this is one church organization you can support that will NOT ask potential recipients where they go to church. Their current work includes getting every congregation in the Episcopal Church to do an asset inventory and develop a plan for how to help their neighbors in whatever catastrophe is likely to strike their neighborhood. In my part of the world, that means fire and response to "the big one," an earthquake/tsunami that will bring us new neighbors from the other side of the Cascades.

Joy That Lasts

So there you have it.  Without leaving the comfort of home, without even having to change out of your jammies, you can find the perfect gift, one that will give joy beyond the end of the year.

Seriously. Water buffalo.
clipart from Microsoft
cotton candy photo by Maggie D'Urbano,used under the Creative Commons License (cropped)
photo of rabbits by Kessa Ligerro and made available under the GNU Free Documentation License 
Entrada dos animais na arca de NoƩ by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglioni, public domain
photo of water buffalo by Da and made available under the GNU Free Documentation License
GNU -- somehow seems appropriate, doncha think?  

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